Cognitive dissonance is defined as the discomfort someone feels when he or she tries to hold onto two contradictory ideas at the same time. I suggest that the term ought to be enlarged to include the discomfort one is bound to experience when holding onto ideas that are manifestly at odds with the real world.
For example: the Obama Administration has criticized Israel for building new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem. This is an obstacle to the peace process. Secretary of Defense Gates has criticized Israeli PM Netanyahu for stating bluntly that only a credible military threat can encourage Iran to consider dropping its bid for nuclear weapons. Secretary of Defense Gates is appalled. He insists that our current negotiation strategy is working.
The problem is that there is no such thing as a genuine peace process for there is no player on the Palestinian side that is willing or able to make peace, let alone both; and the Administration’s negotiations with Iran, like those of its predecessor, haven’t slowed the Iranians down by a single day or a single ounce of radioactive material. Our Middle East policies are based on fantasies, and those fantasies require a lot of mental energy to maintain.
Meanwhile here at home cognitive dissonance is the order of the day. The Democrats seem about to reinstall Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as party leaders. I endorsed this move in my last post, but I was kidding. Michael Tomasky of the British Guardian doesn’t get the joke.
You lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.
No, there shouldn’t be a question. It doesn’t matter if Pelosi did the right thing as Speaker or if she will be effective in the minority. Firing the coach is a necessary step to coming to grips with a humiliating loss. If you don’t believe me, ask former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips who got sacked after the Packers beat him 45-7. Or ask Newt Gingrich.
Not firing the coach means not coming to terms. Period. Not coming to terms is what the Democrats specialize in these days. The supporters of the current Congressional leadership say that the last two years were an age of heroes. We did the right thing, and damn the voters, I mean, the torpedoes.
Okay, but when Pelosi urged her line out of the trenches, she didn’t tell them they were going to lose 65 seats. She told them that forward was the way to winning the next election. She told them that the Democrats lost big in 94 because they were cowards. She told them that if they were brave this time, they would reap the fruits of victory. She and Generalissimo Obama told them that if they would only push forward, the health care bill would become popular.
Well. The game is over and the staff is raking up the confetti. Obama is patiently taking responsibility while evading responsibility. He tells us that the Democrats spent too much time getting things done and not enough time playing the political game. I hope he knows he is telling a bald faced lie. God help us if he believes what he is saying.
The President gave over thirty speeches during the health care debates. All the wrangling over Congressional Budget Office numbers had nothing to do with policy and everything to do with manipulating the spin in the press. Surely he can’t not know that.
Even if he does, it is clear that the Democrats are suffering from cognitive dissonance. Reinstalling Coaches Reid and Pelosi is evidence enough. The dissonance is on full display in the Oval Office. From the Politico:
President Barack Obama has performed his act of contrition. Now comes the hard part, according to Democrats around the country: reckoning with the simple fact that he’s isolated himself from virtually every group that matters in American politics.
Congressional Democrats consider him distant and blame him for their historic defeat on Tuesday. Democratic state party leaders scoff at what they see as an inattentive and hapless political operation. Democratic lobbyists feel maligned by his holier-than-thou take on their profession. His own Cabinet — with only a few exceptions — has been marginalized.
His relations with business leaders could hardly be worse… Add in his icy relations with Republicans, the media and, most important, most voters, and it’s easy to understand why his own staff leaked word to POLITICO that it wants Obama to shake up his staff and change his political approach.
It should be a no-brainer for a humbled Obama to move quickly after Tuesday’s thumping to try to repair these damaged relations, and indeed, in India on Sunday, he acknowledged the need for “midcourse corrections.”
But many Democrats privately say they are skeptical that Obama is self-aware enough to make the sort of dramatic changes they feel are needed — in his relations with other Democrats or in his very approach to the job.
That “self-aware” comment makes my point. “Mendacity is the system we live in” said Brick or Big Daddy, I forget which. I would change “mendacity” to “cognitive dissonance”. We are awash in it.